Review: The Princess of Las Pulgas
Carlie loses nearly everything: Her father dies of cancer, her mother can no longer afford their house and moves the family to an apartment in a seedy neighborhood, and her school zoning changes and she must attend an urban high school that’s a far cry from her elite suburban school. While she is grieving the loss of her father, she is also adjusting to a completely new lifestyle. Carlie is too ashamed of where she lives to tell her old friends about it, but too upset and aloof to start making friends in her new home and school.
When Carlie’s English teacher pushes her to play the role of Desdemona in the school’s theater fundraiser, Carlie reluctantly takes on the role. At first, Carlie continues to be uncomfortable around the kids in her new school, and they mock her apparent snobbishness, but over time she finds that there’s more to the people of Las Pulgas than she realized. The more time Carlie spends in Las Pulgas, the more she realizes that it might not be so bad after all.
C. Lee McKenzie’s The Princess of Las Pulgas is another enjoyable work of contemporary, realistic teen fiction from WestSide Books. The characters are multi-dimensional, more than the stereotypes initially used to portray them. The depiction of social class and prejudice is an important one, reminiscent of Perfect Chemistry, though perhaps not quite as steamy. While Carlie’s attitude is occasionally offputting, her behavior is generally excusable given her palpable grief. What ultimately makes Carlie so endearing is her ability to learn from her new circumstances, to begin letting people back into her life, and to reconnect with her mother and brother, who are adjusting just as much.
In many ways, The Princess of Las Pulgas resembles so many other books and movies that deal with similar topics, so I could see how you might cross this one off your list when reading the summary, but I would urge you to give it a chance. McKenzie’s writing is beautiful and often poetic, and she fills the book with a cast of charming side characters. Carlie’s potential love interests Sean and Juan, tough girl K.T., rifle-carrying orchard owner Jeb, and Quicken the cat are just some of the many supporting characters who make this book worthwhile.